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Phyllis Mary CLEARY

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On December 7, her father's birthday Phyllis Mary Cleary died at Solvay Hospice House in Duluth where she was cared for lovingly and tenderly during the last few days of her life. Born in Superior on July 2, 1940 to John and Gena Cleary, she grew to be the fun-loving, gentle person who was so dear to so many family and friends. She was graduated from Superior Central High School and UWS, then Superior State, and became a kindergarten teacher. She taught briefly in California and then moved to St. Paul, where she loved her career with St. Paul Schools and especially enjoyed her years at Prosperity Elementary. Known to her family as "The Pied Piper", she drew children to her wherever she went. She remarked that she loved holidays with kids, except for Halloween and commented that she'd had seventy Halloween parties while teaching, and that was just too much! In fifteen years, Phyllis never allowed her beautiful smile and lilting Irish laughter to be dulled by the metastatic breast cancer that so ravaged her body. She would not let the beast come anywhere near her spirit. She laughed at it; she defied it; and she lived as if it were powerless to hurt her. Her comment was "well, there are lots of other folks worse off than I am". So joyful was she that, even on the night before she died, Phyllis enjoyed the soothing waters of the Spa at Solvay. Phyllis felt that it was her calling to do all she could to make her community a better place to live. She delivered meals on wheels, took library books to shut-ins, sold Christmas trees for the YMCA, sold tickets to the Merry-Go-Round at Como Park, and ran the Kindergarten Round-up at St. Paul's Prosperity School for many years. She loved her Church and helped wherever she was needed with the Feed My Starving Children Program and was always there for the nights when her Church sheltered the homeless; she loved buying supplies and filing the activity bags to keep the children busy during Sunday services. She was the "go-to" person if you needed a volunteer for a worthy project. She loved her family very much and though she did not have children of her own, she was like a second mother to her nieces and nephews. She helped their families out in difficult times and her heart and her door were always open to them. She delighted in taking them to Como Park, the Science Museum, the Holidazzle parades and even took them on skiing trips. She also loved traveling with her sister Kathleen and they had such fun wherever they went. Phyllis parents, her sister Mary, her brother-in-law Charles Dembroski, and her nephews Jon Dembroski and Wayne Dembroski preceded her in death. Surviving her are a sister Kathleen Dembroski of Superior, her very special nieces and nephews, as well as her dear cousins and her countless friends. Phyllis' life will be joyfully celebrated at a memorial service at 2 PM on Friday, December 14, at North Como Presbyterian Church, 925 Larpenteur Avenue W., St. Paul, with Pastor David Maghakian officiating. Visitation will be at the Church one hour before the service. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be given to the Church. The Cremation Society of Minnesota is assisting the family with arrangements.

Published in Pioneer Press on Dec. 11, 2012
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